No specific order. Just a look back with not a lot of optimism for a better 2010. If there was ever an era of unforeseen consequences by people who have sold themselves into believing they have done or are doing the right thing, it was the early nineties through 2009:
Pick up with the Capital Works Bill and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act now promising work for 439,000 Illinois Workers and an expenditure of $31 billion over 6 years, plus acess to another $3.7 billion. Some partial plans follow; more in Part 2:
$14.3 billion for roads and bridges. $500 million for local projects.
Completion of the Eastern Bypass including new bridge over the Illinois River. Estimated cost $625 million. Translation: $2.4 million for engineering and land acquisition costs. This allocation requires a $600,000 state match. A corridor study using this $3 million to be completed by 2010. A complete Phase 1 Engineering study with corridor protection estimated at $12 million. But this bypass will never be built. Just millions on studies and good media fodder.
Translation: This is the 3rd effort at an Eastern Bypass with the engineers, consultants, and government employees the recipients of the money. And we have no idea what it will ACTUALLY cost. Why the widespread support among the movers and shakers? It's called the "herd instinct". Flashback: The "original" plan protested by more than 5000 landowners and taxpayers in Tazewell and Woodford County back in 1997 was estimated to cost $397 million. $2 million of taxpayer dollars, $1 mil. each from the state and feds, went into the "preliminary" study. This ring road was to hook up with the $800 million Peoria/Chicago Highway which of course was never built and never will be. Ray LaHood was working on another $5 million from the feds to be matched by $5 million from the state.. Ray was never bashful about trying to bring taxpayer money back to Peoria. On the other hand, he and Leitch should not have let so many tax dollars go from the the Peoria area to Springfield and Washington. DC.
On April, 13, 1997, the JS reported "Residents say they lack reason to support ring road". Yet LaHood was quoted "Once we're on the track to building a (Peoria/Chicago Highway), we can look at solutions to other problems. When that's been identified as the #1 transportation priority from just about every person in a position of authority in this area, that has to be my priority. That's part of my responsibility to the people who elected me." The paper also quoted LaHood, Mike McCord and other movers and shaker, "No one intends a ring road without a Peoria/Chicago Highway", the men said.
Don't log off. It gets better. Today's JS quoted the AP as listing Illinois 5th up from the bottom, 45th, as being the "happiest" state in the union. Even North Dakota had a much higher rating of 25th. It gets better: Moodys downgraded Illinois general obligations bonds debt ratings from a A1; not tops, to A2. Build Illinois sales tax revenue bonds were also cut to A2 from A1. (Reuters" Tuesday, December 8, 09, by Karen Pierog). Moody's put the state outlook as growing negative. Read the whole disturbing report.
Back to the ring road. On June 21, 2007, John Sharp of the JS, reported "Eastern Bypass contract awarded" for $3 million to a firm called H.W. Lochner, an engineering firm from Chicago. The area EDC gave John wrong info when they said this "project started in 1999. 1997, John, I have the documents to back up everything I've written including blogs about this and other area highway boondoggles from the nineties too date.
It gets better. Kevin Sampier of the JS wrote "IDOT plans for the Eastern bypass delayed by budget concern. The funds for the study for the projected (now $800 million) bypass is short $7 million of the #10 million to study the right a way, environmental, public meetings, etc.
Somewhere along the plans for a Chicago/Peoria Highway up around LaRose and and other rural villages, LaHood had a change of heart. The change - Rt. 29 to Rt. 80 became the way to get to Chicago for only $300 plus million.
See Part 2 of "Looking Back".